BOOK REVIEW / 'The Comedy Hotel' - Guy Bellamy: Viking, 14.99.

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The Independent Culture
The author's name does not often appear in disquisitions on the Modern Novel. But in the 15 years since he published The Secret Lemonade Drinker, his fiction has evoked more of this boom-and-bust era than many ponderous literary analysts have done. His adulterous suburbia is twinned (long ahead of Eldorado) with a Spain which offers refuge from the predacity of bank mangers bent upon sabotaging commercial enterprise.

The Comedy Hotel features a man vexed by middle age whose vasectomy has not apparently foiled pregnancy. Again, a business is under siege, and consolation sought in downing gins at a local bar. But the Optic-glass is illusive, for matters only worsen, mid-life crises echoed in teenage pregnancy, vandalism, drug-smuggling and imprisonment. Despite the title, the happy ending and the customary gags and bemused observation (eg the graffito 'God Gave his Only Sony'), the result is sombre. The real tone is found in such dialogue as 'a double-barrelled name used to mean you were posh. Now it means you're a bastard.'

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